Tilson Brook Cranberries
Tilson Brook Cranberries
As children, few people REALLY know what they want to be when they grow up. That was not the case with John Mason. John knew from a very early age that he wanted to be a cranberry grower. As a young boy, he loved everything about being on the bogs with his dad, Austin.
Austin Mason, a forester and horticulturalist, began farming cranberries in 1978 in South Carver. John would help his father dry pick the native varieties on their nine acre farm. His favorite thing as a kid was dry harvesting. He found it labor intensive but rewarding. During the harvest, it was common for tourists to stop on the side of Tremont Street to take pictures and John remembers setting up a roadside stand with a “Tours” sign to educate them about what was going on. One memory he recounted was when friends brought over a visiting relative to see them harvesting and after telling them all about the harvest, the relative remarked on how much John knew about it. John, then somewhere between 8 & 10 years old, responded with “I’ve been doing this my whole life!”
Growing up on the bogs always makes for interesting memories. John told CCCGA about falling into a drainage canal as a child and his dad had to scoop him out. John had to keep it a secret from his mom so he could still go out on the bog. And then there was the time he stuck his hand on the bog buggy muffler and got burned…
As he grew older, John’s father tried to push him away from the cranberry industry. After graduation fromCarver high school, John began working for John Mathias doing excavation and site work. He was never far from the cranberry industry however, and in 2009 he began working for Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company Inc. This would be the start of a career in the cranberry industry. Today, John assists Gary Garretson in managing bog operations.
The opportunities and guidance John has received from Mr. Garretson have propelled him further than he ever imagined. His work at Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company includes conducting tours for politicians, regulators, environmentalists, customers and neighbors to teach them what they do with the land. He also does a lot of promotional work with Ocean Spray Cranberries during the harvest season.
John sees himself as a young advocate in the industry. He is the youngest member of the CCCGA Board of Directors and serves on the Environmental & Government Affairs Committee as well as the Research Committee. He recognizes the importance of the Association in terms of governmental and environmental issues and, this past June, John gave testimony on the hill for a renovation tax credit. He educated lawmakers on the background of the industry, what bog renovation is, why it’s needed and how a tax credit could assist growers in renovating plus the benefits to the commonwealth. He sees the value of membership in the Association as an important piece in keeping the industry aligned regardless of where each grower markets their fruit in order to tackle government and environment affairs together.
What John likes most about the cranberry farming industry is the fact that no two days are the same. Working outdoors and being around wildlife is something he enjoys greatly. As he told CCCGA “some days I drive on the bogs and don’t hit the pavement again all day”. When asked, John said his favorite part of the harvest is the early morning when he drives down to a bog loaded with fruit that is ready to pick.
Away from the bogs, John and his wife, Stephanie, have an 11 month old son named Blake and are expecting a baby girl in January. John is an outdoorsman and enjoys salt water fishing and duck hunting. He is an avid Patriots fan and attends a lot of games during the season. While he admittedly does not like to cook…one of his favorite cranberry recipes is for sweet cranberry meatballs.
Looking toward the future of this industry, John foresees the challenges of marketing our product on the state level and dealing with and adapting to weather extremes. In the bigger, regional picture, becoming more efficient to keep up with other regions is the top challenge he sees. Given the current industry landscape, John remains optimistic that it will bounce back. He takes pride in being a young farmer and being involved behind the scenes with CCCGA to protect his livelihood for the future.
In December of 2016 he purchased the family bogs from his father and Tilson Brook Cranberries began. John is excited to raise his family on the same farm he was raised on and hopefully teach them the same values he learned as a child.